One of the very first areas I wanted to tackle on our Simpler Life journey, was the kitchen – our pantry and fridge/freezer, in particular – two areas that I kept trying to organise and streamline and make Pinterest-worthy, but to no avail. They kept getting crowded, muddled and jumbled – which meant that we could never find what we were looking for and ended up buying more. Our freezer was overrun by a million pieces of chicken, packets of peas and half-eaten loaves of sliced bread, and the fridge looked like a shrine to the god of condiments.
And then there was our grocery bill. Heaven to Betsy, but we spent a lot on food and cleaning supplies. Each week, I would head to Pick n Pay to buy lotions and potions to clean floors, windows, baths, counter tops, dishes, clothes, and cars. It cost an absolute fortune! Then I would throw in a new water bottle for Kayla, some lunch box treats for both girls, a magazine or five, and a new potted plant for the kitchen counter. Multiply that by 4 weeks, and I was spending a LOT. Add to that my weekly visits to Woolworths to stock up on fresh fruit and veggies, milk, cheeses, more lunch box items, a few easy dinner options and, yes, a magazine or five.
It was just too much. Too much stuff, too much money, too many hours and too much going to waste. It was time for a change. (One that didn’t necessitate cutting down on my magazine addiction though. Small steps, people. Small steps.)
First up was to switch to online shopping at Pick n Pay – something that I had been meaning to do but had put off because the thought of creating a LIST made me feel all weak and panicky. I then made a deal with myself that I was not allowed even a drop of wine until the list had been set up, and it was done within the hour! To be very honest, it is not a big job – but it does take time searching for and finding the right size/ quantity/ brand. I also drastically cut down on the various cleaning supplies we use (FYI – Sunlight Liquid in a bucket of warm water does an amazing job of cleaning the floors! And according to my mother-in-law, she has been using the much cheaper “hand washing” powder in her automatic washing machine for years!) All in, it took just over half and hour and I was done. I then placed the order, scheduled my preferred delivery slot (4 days away as they are really busy), and stuck the Master List on the fridge. The plan was that each time we needed to buy something, I would add it to my weekly Woolworths shop, and make a note on the Master List to add it to next month’s Pick n Pay order.
Step 2 was to ETF (Empty The Fridge). This wasn’t fun. It wasn’t fun at all. Stephen does
most all of the cooking and mostly stops off at Woolworths on the way home to buy whatever he’s in the mood to make. Hence the million packets of frozen chicken and mince lying in our freezer! We made the Proper Grown Up decision that we would not buy a single dinner protein or loaf of bread, until we had eaten absolutely everything in the freezer. And yes, we ate a lot of chicken! But the truth is, we saved a fortune that month, learned to work with what we had, and gradually emptied the fridge, freezer and pantry of items that had been sitting there for ages.
Step 3 was to commit to a once-weekly shop at Woolworths – something was was relatively easy now that we had broken the habit of deciding what we felt like eating and buying it that day. I would purchase a week’s worth of meat, chicken and fish (having checked the freezer first and deducted those items from the list), as well as all the fresh food we would need for the week.
That was it for the first month – no buying pretty storage items, or fancy containers or spending hours rearranging cupboards. I merely subtracted – something that I was beginning to understand is the key to living a Simpler Life. Subtract. Subtract. Subtract. It was only once there was so much less, that could I immediately see how to organise it better. Which was what I did in the second month.
To be fair, the contents of my fridge will never win any competitions on Pinterest, but I feel so much happier every time I open the door. Rows of items have been been checked for expiry dates or donated, and only those which we frequently use have made their way into the fridge door. We can now see exactly what we have, what needs to be eaten before it expires, and what needs replacing. Our freezer is unbelievably empty – and the drawers have been organised by category so that we can easily find what we are looking for.
The pantry remains a challenge – something I am thinking about and saving as a future project. For now, I need to be content with the fact that everything in our pantry is something that we will use and can easily access – the rest has been donated. (On a side note, how much herbal tea can one woman have? I had eleven boxes of the stuff!)
All in all, I can honestly say that this has been a valuable exercise. Our grocery bill is down by a third, we are all more conscious of not letting any food go to waste, and those areas of the house are far less cluttered and more organised!
- Online shopping has been an eye-opener – the delivery cost is offset by the amount of spontaneous buying I used to do. Plus, all items are delivered directly to my kitchen counter – bonus!
- The downside of online shopping is that I can’t compare prices or easily access special offers. This means that I am missing out on certain deals and opportunities to save. I also need to shop four days before the end of the month, to allow for their average 4-day delivery lead time.
- Time spent eating what we already had in the fridge/ freezer was incredibly valuable – both mentally and financially.
- I far prefer opening an emptier fridge and pantry and making full use of what we have, than our previous habit of overabundance and the resulting wastage.
- Subtract wherever possible. Keep subtracting.